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Sights and Sounds From Practice in Orlando: Penn State Prepares for the Citrus Bowl

The team soaked in the sun and took care of business at Celebration High School.

Penn State held its second practice in Orlando on Thursday afternoon in preparation for the Citrus Bowl. It was a closed practice so once the team was ready to begin, all fans and media members were asked to leave. Coach James Franklin stopped to take a picture with some of the supporters that came to encourage the team as they walked to the field.

Here are a few shots from practice.

As you can see, the weather was great, topping out at around 80 degrees. For the players and fans that made the trip from the cold northern winter, it was a welcomed change.

Following practice two veteran defensive backs spoke with us. John Reid was asked about the challenge of stopping Kentucky’s leading receiver, Lynn Bowden, along with the rest of the Wildcat offense.

Reid was asked about Lamont Wade, who figures to be a starter at safety opposite Garrett Taylor next season. Just a few months ago it seemed uncertain whether Reid would return for his senior year. During the press conference he mentioned that he is not sure whether he will graduate this spring or next fall, depending on when courses are offered for finishing his major.

It sounds like Reid is looking forward to playing with Wade next year.

With the team taking portions of each day for practice, and also entertainment, Reid was asked if he will be riding any of the roller coasters while at the theme parks. He revealed that he has a phobia, but that it will not stop him from enjoying himself.

Amani Oruwariye, from nearby Tampa, spoke with us as well. Oruwariye came into the season a talented corner, but without full-time experience. Now he is projected by some people to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. Here is what he had to say about his journey.

While Oruwariye made strides on the field in terms of his play, he also mentioned that taking a leadership role was important to him. A great leader will focus on team goals and he concluded with his thoughts on what is at stake for the team on Tuesday.

While the team was very relaxed during practice there was also a sense that it was focused. There are plenty of veterans on the team and they know how to separate business from pleasure.

Tight ends coach Tyler Bowen was the offensive line coach at Maryland last season, before that he was the offensive coordinator at Fordham in 2016. Bowen did not have much to do with recruiting the talent that is currently on the Penn State roster, but he has the job of molding the group of top recruits into a formidable weapon.

He was asked about Zach Kuntz, who was listed at 6’7 235-pounds earlier in the season. “He’s put on 10-12 pounds since he got here. I see him continuing to do that every year, I don’t know if there is an upper limit for him, with him being 6’7 and a half.”

While Pat Freiermuth has gotten much of the attention during his freshman season, Kuntz is set to join him on the field next year. Brenton Strange, the 6’5 class of 2019 recruit, will also be with the team next fall. The trio should be a nightmare for teams to defend.

Here is what Bowen had to say about the group.

Coach Bowen was asked about the process that was involved in landing Brenton Strange, and what type of sales pitch is used to entice players to come to Penn State.

With the tight ends poised to be a major part of the offense next season, much more so than recent years when one tight end at a time led the way, coach Bowen’s role on the coaching staff will magnified. He will have to keep two or three players ready to perform on game day. It will be both an advantage and an extra challenge.